An Observation on the Advertising Agency Industry – Part 2: Attracting the Millennial Marketer

Last week, I wrote about the agency “Future User”, a.k.a. the millennial marketer, and a need to adjust the customer acquisition model to reflect the needs of this user. Today, I’d like to talk about my personal experience, as a millennial marketer, in selecting and purchasing agency services as well as some of the opportunities I see for improvement.

Each time I’ve lived through the process of finding, comparing, and selecting agencies to work with, I’ve come out a little worse for wear. I often start energized and confident, only to find myself exhausted and uncertain by the time I’ve made my selection. Occasionally, I have even selected the agency I’ve worked with before. Why? Because they are a known entity even if I’m not sure that they are the right fit for the job.

I want to get past the temptation of running back to the agency that I already know. I believe agencies can help me do this by overcoming these three common failures.

  • Agencies fail to educate. Many in-house marketers tend to wear multiple hats, allowing them to be high-performing generalists that can steer a brand in the right direction. They often turn to agencies to help them build out the pieces of the puzzle that require an expert’s touch. Here’s where an agency can either fail or succeed. Marketing professionals don’t always understand what services they need and the best way to implement those services. The agency needs to educate the marketer on the ins, outs, and value props of a particular service to win the marketer over. When agencies fail to do this quickly, they are often tossed out of the running.
  • Agencies fail to create a customer experience their users want. Millennials want a self-service, online customer experience. The traditional agency model is offline. Agencies will need to address this customer need as the millennial marketer becomes their user.
  • Agencies fail to accommodate a marketer’s time constraints. In most industries, marketers usually have a short window to advertise to see results within the year. As such, they run with tight timelines and require fast turnarounds. The time spent on the selection process eats into the overall timeline of the project. I believe this influences a marketer to work with an agency they’ve worked with before, even if there is a better fit out there, because, theoretically, it will take less time to onboard the agency they know.

It is very difficult for a “new” agency to compete with an existing relationship, but if an agency can overcome those three failures they may just have a shot. Here’s how I think they can do this:

Create a self-service, digital buying experience selling clearly defined (productized) services. Oh, and cut out the marketing jargon and/or define it for users.

Let’s break that down a bit further…

A Digital Buying Experience for the Millennial Marketer

According to a B2B Procurement Study, 71% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct research and purchase on their own with access to a sales rep if necessary. Further, 68% of B2B buyers want to make their purchase online, as per Accenture Interactive. By creating a self-service, digital buying experience, you can educate customers as they research, while also giving them the customer service options they want. Further, the experience needs to be offered in laymen’s terms, so customers can understand without an expert holding their hand. By reducing or defining marketing jargon, you will help the millennial marketer understand the offering faster.

The customer may still end up wanting a pitch presentation, but the more educated they are upfront by you, the more likely they will be to choose you. htmlBurger does a good job of this. They offer a digital buying experience that’s easy to understand while making you hungry simultaneously.

htmlBurger's Digital Buying Experience

Productizing Marketing Services

Productization is the process of creating “an offering with a set of repeatable activities and deliverables that address a common business problem” according to Craig McQueen. For example, a company can productize a content creation service by providing a set of deliverables they think is best (based on their expertise) for a set price. Audience Ops does this well:

Audience Ops Millennial Marketer

Productization does not mean a lack of creativity to me. It means upfront transparency with an expectation of creativity when the job is started. Through productization, an agency can make it clear from day 1 what clients can expect and when they can expect to receive it. This will help reduce the number of unhappy customers who had different expectations. Additionally, marketers with limited time (most marketers) will love that they don’t have to wait for a quote.

Productization has always been a difficult concept for agencies because admittedly it is hard to do. But, I don’t think it’s impossible. Agencies should start with their more popular services and evaluate what common deliverables they’ve provided in the past. This will help them test out productization to avoid recreating the wheel every time a service request comes in. In my free time, I’ve started to take a stab at what a productized marketing world looks like. So, if you are interested in learning more, feel free to reach out.

Getting to the Right Model Using Agile Techniques

Now I know full well that you can’t change your business model overnight. Nor am I suggesting that. My recommendation is to invest in agile business techniques so you can test ideas before going full force in one direction or the other. Gather a team of existing professionals at your company or bring on a new team to help you test new go-to-market methods and alternative paths. Lastly, and most importantly, build your future user personas to determine what tests you should be implementing today.

I hope to see some more agencies creating a digital buying experience in the future!